Parenting vs. Family Masala (spice)
We all enjoy the spicy mix of masala in our lives. A little cursing, a little tattle, a little gossip, a little sarcasm, a little candid humor adds zest and pizzazz to any ordinary day!
However, when it comes to our kids—of any age—that kind of masala can slap us in the face or come back to haunt us! I recently heard an eight-year-old respond to his mom’s, “What’s your problem, brat!” with a “You’re the problem, Mother-brat!” In one of my workshops, another mother said that when she grounded her child for offensive remarks on social media and asked, “Where the hell do you learn this from?” her thirteen-year-old daughter spat back, “From your hella Instagram, Mother dearest!”
How can this surprise us, though? Monkey see, monkey do!
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So as you step into 2018, take a quick personal inventory of the masala that you bring to the conversation—in person and on social media—and reflect on how that seeps into your child’s interaction with you and other family members or friends. Their responses, reactions, and tone of voice will give you a clear signal of what you need to update in your dialogue. But fixing yourself is actually the easy part.
What do you do if you have a spouse or partner who curses or is condescending? Or a teenage sibling or cousin who influences your child? If they are living outside your home, that makes it easier to draw the line and enforce some limits.
However, if the person is a spouse, partner, or sibling who lives in the home, here are a few tips to make sure that the masala in your house matches the kind of kids you want to raise:
- Set some strong ground rules—not boundaries or guidelines but actual rules that are sacred and abiding. If cursing is a strong household habit, get creative. Put up a sign in plain view that states: Cursing hurts feelings. Have every family member sign it so they take ownership. This holds true for sarcasm or gossip as well, so identify the issue and spotlight it accordingly. And if curse words are the main problem (it is the most common issue today), suggest some kid-friendly alternatives, like “oh, my” or “shoot.” And, no, “frickin’” is not an acceptable replacement at all.
- Don’t make something ok when it’s not. Telling kids it’s okay for adults to use a particular word or that they can use certain words or a sarcastic tone of voice when they grow up is not the right masala to add to parenting! If kids are exposed to certain words (or condescending attitudes), they will certainly use them. As you know, this can get them in big trouble on social media, at school, and in relationships with peers. Don’t set your kids up for failure.
- Be a role model and a rule model. If you’re telling your kids not to say a certain thing or talk a certain way, model that behaviour yourself. After all, you are their role model! Catch yourself when you slip, and follow-up with a sincere apology. I know there are a lot of suggestions online about putting coins in a jar every time you curse, but those are just short-term remedies. Nothing is stronger than honest sincerity for setting good examples.
Now, what if you are a good role and rule model and have a respectful way of communicating with your children, and you nevertheless get a phone call telling you that the kids used the wrong masala at school? This should be a breeze:
Respond, don’t react. Discuss, don’t punish or reprimand. The kids probably will face some consequences at school, so let that be the lesson. Piling on your own “punishment” will hinder their learning by adding more emotions to the mix.
Kids are supposed to explore; allow them to make mistakes along the way. Have a discussion with them instead of adding a typical South Asian scolding and finger-pointing session. Every such disagreement can be a moment to build connection if we handle it with love and respect instead of creating fear.
The way we speak to our kids becomes their inner voice. The way we act programs their lives. Point them in a direction that aligns with being mindful and conscious. Parent with the right masala—one that leaves a pleasant flavour for you, your kids, and those they interact with.
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